Reasons To Sew A Toile

sewing a toile

andy powell

Did you witness the rather magnificent costume designer, Sandy Powell, wear a toile to the BAFTA awards? She’s raising money for Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, the home of his creativity. The plan was to persuade famous attendees to sign her toile, and auction it off.

Her plan worked! The Instagram photos were amazing.

sandy powell baftas

sandy powell baftas derek jarman

But maybe you don’t have chance to sew a toile in order to have it signed by A-list stars. What are your other reasons to make a toile (muslin in US vocabulary).

A toile is a first, cold run in the construction of your project – sometimes in calico, but other times in a fabric similair to your chosen final fabric.


I’ve sewn a few in the past. The main reasons are to:

  • Choose and test a pattern size
  • Check and adjust fit
  • Practise construction
  • Make notes – I love scribbling on fabric
  • Understand fabric drape. I often sew a toile from similair fabric to my intended fabric of choice

vogue bodice toile

Once you’ve tested your make, you can transfer adjustments to the pattern pieces and sew an outfit that:

  • Fits your body
  • Suits your taste
  • Is easy to construct
  • Doesn’t waste time and effort
  • Lives up to your vision
  • Makes you feel smug!

Of course, there are always the quick and dirty sewing projects that you can’t resist whipping up. That’s part of the fun, too!

But sometimes life needs a toile. Especially, if you’re meeting stars.

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12 Responses to Reasons To Sew A Toile

  1. run-sew-read says:

    Enjoyed that! I need to make more toiles.

  2. shoes15 says:

    I make a toile if I am unfamiliar with the patternmaker’s block, I am using expensive fabric, or if the pattern is very fitted. It’s usually worth while.

  3. Melody Srygley says:

    I made my first toile for adjusting the Vogue 9253 dress – the one with the now not so low V. It worked a charm & I danced the night away without any nipple flashing wardrobe malfunctions! So it was definitely worth it (SUCCESS) but I feel so…wasteful. All that fabric bound for the ocean. Sigh…(I’ve made wearable toiles in the past, but that didn’t work in this project.)

    • JenL says:

      If one uses a natural fabric, then the waste is not so bad — though it is something I have concern about as well. If it is a natural fiber, at least it is going to decompose at some point. It is also possible to reuse any bits of fabric, recutting them for another toile, or to stuff a pillow, dress form or something.

  4. JenL says:

    That was fun!
    Personally, I don’t do it all the time, but I have never regretted making a muslin/toile when I have. It’s always worth the time and effort.

  5. Sarah says:

    I’ve just finished a wearable toile.

  6. Marie Joyce says:

    I made a toile for design & fitting my daughter’s wedding dress out of old net curtains and a satin duvet cover. She loved it and it was surprisingly beautiful. She still has it! ๐Ÿ˜

  7. I love making toiles. I never get as far as facings or finishing, it’s all raw edges and seams. Fitted inside out. I learned to fit by “toiling” on people, a sort of hybrid of pattern and drape. It’s funny how when one becomes an experienced sewist, one wants to slow right down and enjoy the process.

  8. Barkcloth says:

    I hate making toiles. It is so NOT fun to do. It takes up way too much time, time that could be spend with lovely fabric that is a joy to sew. Yes, I sometimes end up with projects that donโ€™t have a perfect fit. But I give these away. And I use patterns that do fit me several times.

  9. Karen Mulkey says:

    I always make muslins when I’m sewing a new pattern for unique construction and perfecting the fit. I’m never sorry for the extra time and urge others to do the same. Some of my muslins turn into wearable garments which is an added bonus..

  10. Cherry Heinrich says:

    My daughter asked me to copy a Whistles pencil skirt in a fine knit fabric she has worn to death. The construction was a mystery and I am scared of knits. The material was doubled so no hem and the elastic waist was enclosed and no visible joins. When I found a way of turning it inside out with minimal unpicking all was revealed. So I made a doll size version just to work out the stages. Then attempted a toile which wasn’t completed as the knit fabric used was such a different stretch. But I learned so much and conquered my fear. Final skirt fitted like a skin and even if I say so myself looked amazing.
    PS Can you guess which word autocorrect favours for toile? Or was it just me that got the smallest room?

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